This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Several years ago, I was tapped to "teach" the lesson in High Priest Group. Bad idea, but it wasn't mine. I merely agreed to go along with it.
Anyway, I looked in the manual, determined that the lesson was boring to the point of abuse, and put together one of my own.
The title of the lesson the following Sunday was "What to Do When You Don't Agree With Church Leaders."
Given the sometimes fractious history of the LDS Church, I figured it was a fair lesson. Our leaders are human beings. Any reasonable person would understand that there might be times when what these leaders say/pronounce doesn't make sense.
I based this on what I thought was a common understanding that automatic belief in whatever another human being said was a sign that you might not be thinking hard enough for yourself.
Note to uptight Mormons: There's a difference between agree and sustain. Look it up.
I should have known better. As soon as I announced the title of the lesson, I noticed that uncomfortable shift come over the more heavily correlated members of the flock.
If you've ever expressed a different opinion about something in a church meeting, you've probably seen it yourself. Everyone sits up straight as their haunches tighten. Lips flatten as a smooth pitying look masques, "Holy s#%&@! A wolf!"
Probably because of the way I am, I've seen that look in meetings of Mormons, Catholics, Muslims, Evangelicals, Jews, and other places where the absolute "truth" of something has already been determined.
It's a look that is inevitably going to become more common as the Information Age rolls over inflexible belief. Everyone knows what happened when movable type made the Bible available to everyone.
Suddenly there were lots and lots of questions and not everyone was content with old stock answers they now considered insulting to their intelligence.
Today, the LDS Church is struggling to find a way of incorporating the "messier" parts of our history into the curriculum.
It's a situation that has come around to all faiths before. It will keep happening. Thanks to continual leaps in science, technology and the human need to ask hard questions, we're going to be finding out a lot more about our penchant for confusing faith with bone-headed inflexibility.
I'm betting that in 50 years, mapping the human genome will be nothing compared to mapping the evolution of human religious beliefs.
What will happen when we can pull molecular components from ancient manuscript pages and link them not only to an exact moment in history, but also to a specific individual?
What will that do to our sacred and historical religious texts? Probably the same thing that Galileo once did to the "truth" that the Earth was the center of the Universe.
We can all do what human beings have done in the past; close our eyes, plug our ears, and mumble "won't happen, won't happen, won't happen" all we want. But it will. It always has before.
None of this means that faith is a waste of time. For me, faith is less about what we've done to others (and ourselves) in the past, and more about what we can do for each other right now.